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Benjamin Basil Jackson Family Papers: Transcripts - MS 797
Staunton, Macoupin Co., Ills.
Sept. 19th 1874
Mr. S. O. Jackson,
As this is the anniversary of your birthday I thought I would devote a part of it in inflicting a few lines upon you; and if you will return the compliment two weeks from today, I assure you it will be gratefully received and remembered. No letter from home yet, but as I know how hurried you all are; I can hardly expect it. As I came along on the cars and saw men pulling in wheat, I could not help regretting that I had taken you and team away from the field that afternoon. I did not see very much ground that had been sowed in Indiana, but as daybreak came, and I neared this place, I discovered considerable wheat up and growing finely. I would love to ride out over the prairie in this locality and get a good view of the undulating cultivated land for miles and miles.
Min, says the land in general here brings $50.00 per acre; and I should judge it is worth that. They are hauling grain and flour here to the depot all the time--filling from ten to fourteen cars per day. I believe the nearest building to the depot is a large, nice looking cooper shop, and the way they turn out barrels there is remarkable, I don't know how many hands they have; but every little while I see a wagon with a high rack holding three tiers of barrels on end going to the mills, and almost any time I look out I can see wagons loaded with barrels of flour leaving the mills and other wagons going to the mills loaded tremendously with three rows of sacks above the wagon beds. They run their mills day and night. Steve, how would you like the cooper's trade? Minnie says her father is following that--each hand gets paid for the amount of work they accomplish; and that he makes about three dollars per day, or average $18 per week. I believe she said Theodore learned it too; but has since gone into a cabinet shop and works at a turning lathe (or rolling mill, or something that way) and makes three dollars per day and he don't spend a cent, unless necessity demands; but is laying up. (He is to be married about Christmas.) They rec'd one of Delle's photos the other day--I think she must be quite a handsome young lady--looks very much like Meliss used to.
Frank has not been here since I came but Minnie's letter today from him said he would try to come next Saturday. He is farther away than common just now; as his instructor has sent him to Monticello to take picture for awhile.
I like Staunton very well so far. There is plenty of good well water, which seems quite soft; but Min has a splendid cistern for washing.
If all depots were as quiet and nice as this, I should have no dread of my intended pursuit. Min, says tranquility and propriety always reign supreme where there is a lady operator: I passed through Attica in the night, and through the window I could see a nice looking lady operator at the stand. There is no night operator here. The agent is a nice old gentleman, Dr. Hoxsey, which helps to lend a quiet influence to the place. Everything is encouraging to me.
If everything remains all right at home, and none of you get sick, I think I shall be contented; for I think I am doing the best I can for myself; but my conscience lashes me sometimes, makes one feel like I am selfish, to be doing for myself where the folks at home have more than they can do possibly. If you only had a good hired girl, I would not be so afraid of mother keeping herself feeble overdoing ; and I believe it would pay to now while there is so much fruit and things going to waste. Perhaps you might get Temperance McClish.
I have written to Andrew, and rec'd this week's issue of the Paulding paper yesterday morning.
I have been helping to pare a half a bushel of peaches today, that Min bought for five "bits" -to use the dialect there. They have been affected by the dry weather and they claim they are usually better here than they are this year.
Oh! I was weighed the other day; and although I generally am good a guessing other people's weight, I missed fearfully in my own. I should guessed about 130 and lo! It was only 112. Less than I have weighed since I was fifteen, but if the climate should transform me to look like the majority of women here abouts, I would weigh 150 or more. But they are mostly Germans.
I can see that I am improving daily in telegraphing. I can write on an average 18 words per minute; but can not receive more than 1/3 that fast. Oh! It takes a cultivated ear. Slip into the office at Antwerp sometime and see if you can distinguish between the dots, dashes, and spaces.
I wish two or three of you would get at it and write on Sunday; and have a letter ready to send up by anyone that goes along during the week. I will get it the next morning. I have not spent a cent since I left Antwerp, only for stationary.
[Written inverted at top of page]
Don't neglect to write to your sister,
Staunton, Macoupin Co., Ills.
Sept. 26th 1874
Miss Em. Banks
My Dear Old Chum,
I have been wanting to write to you and hear from you ever since I came west; and have finally succeeded in commencing. I can not now send this till Monday morning, but will write today, for fear I will not have an opportunity tomorrow, as Min is always at the house nearly all day on Sundays, and we always talk so much and tomorrow she is expecting Frank. He has not been here since I came.
There was a brakeman had his left hand smashed here at the depot today, which caused a great many dispatches to be sent and received. His sister came from Decatur and sent a telegram back to her mother-one to Springfield and one to her lover at St. Louis stating that she would be here over Sunday. He then inquired if he should come-she sent back word he could do as he liked. Then the operator there told him to tell her "Three cares" for him that she would "understand." Min sent word over to the hotel for her to come over, and she told her what word the operator from St. Louis had sent. She laughing, said that she had sent him a picture recently of a young married couple with three babes, called "the Three Cares" and asked him which he preferred, that or a single blessedness? And he had now answered "three cares." Presently, she sent over another message to be sent to that operator which was as follows: "Lou's compliments many cares and many responsibilities." And that was to be "deadheaded" through as the others had been; and Min said that was all foolishness and did not send it. She gets ten per ct. on all she collects for sending messages, other than R.R. business, besides her monthly wages. One day she came in at dinner time and said that her percent on the messages she had sent that forenoon amounted to 95 cents. It only averages six or seven dollars a month here.
Minnie is getting along finely here. She has a very pleasant, quiet station; and one of the superintendents of the line was along the other day and he told her that if she wished to continue for several years he would intercede to have her a little office built by itself, and she could carpet it and furnish it to her own taste. She bought her a lot here 48 by 112 feet for which she paid $150. And has planned and had or hired built a very convenient nice cottage house thereon-the front is 18 by 26, the wing is 12 by 24. So that she has plenty of room and all well furnished. I will note down the contents of this room for edification. There is nice carpet on the floor, (she has all her rooms carpeted) embroidered window curtains, a bureau, a book case full of choice books, a stylish little commode full of Ona's clothes, on top of which is a clock, a large double lamp, some fancy seashells, an album, a huskbasket full of stereoscopic views, and a variety of photos from Frank's experimenting. Then in one corner is a large what-not loaded with, costly literary monthlies, silver cups, gilded china cups, ornaments and vases, fancy bead cushions, & c, & c, in the room is also an eighteen dollar set of chairs, besides two rocking chairs, a coal stove, a twenty-five dollar bed stead, and I am writing on a Domestic sewing machine. There are a number of pictures on the wall. Frank's and Min's cost forty-five dollars for the two, at reduced rates too, as he is in that gallery. Min's is finished in oil, and as soon as house-cleaning it over with she will have a large, polished, walnut wardrobe brought here. She showed it to me downtown the other day, it has drawers, shelves, and hooks, wherein so much clothing can be stowed away from the flies, it will cost $28 dollars. She says it would not cost her anything to move, anywhere on the T.W.W.R.R. as operators are always furnished a car anytime they desire.
Minnie is a shrewd manager, economical, and very saving in a great many respects. She does not have very many fine clothes, but she has gold ornaments and silverware enough to make up. She wears calico every day, made fashionable of course, and starched and ironed very particularly in addition to that she wears a gold watch and chain worth $130, earrings and pin worth $35, bracelets $30, sleeve buttons $5, and two rings that cost $25, and has a topaz set in; and Frank is about getting another one made with ruby and pearl sets in that will cost over thirty dollars. She says, counting her time and all expenses, her visit home last spring cost her about $200 dollars. She made her mother about forty dollars worth of presents, and some to each of the rest. Frank gets about forty dollars per month; but spends twenty each month for board. I would rather fill Min's place, than her hired girls, even if I received equal wages. She say she often hears of men's making remarks about her in a pitying way, saying it must be hard life for a woman to be compelled to spend twelve hours a day in an office, she says it always makes her mad, for those same men never think of pitying their own wives, that put in sixteen or seventeen hours in the day, working three times as hard as she does; and then worry over cross or sick children the other six or seven hours in every twenty-four, whereas when her day's work is done she feels free. She has seen enough of life to realize that hers is easier than a majority and she is contented and even happy or at least she says she will be when Frank gets his trade learned. She is going to try and persuade him to settle down here; but he thinks he can make more to travel awhile.
There is a young lady here, a Ms. Lou Smith, that is learning telegraphing-she works for her board and tuition; and she has a considerable to do, too. There are five of us, all operators but Ona. I tell you we live cozy and nice as so many school ma'ams. We need just such a boy as Lawrence to run of errands; besides he gives us a lesson now and then; and if Min is not ready to go to the office, he can run over and send and receive train reports. Lou and I do not got to the office much yet; for we can still learn on our local battery here at the house. And we are not able to catch many letters yet on the main line as fast as they generally write; but I think by the time I have been here three weeks longer I can receive a considerable from the main line. Lou learns very fast but she is a poor speller and will have to study her spelling book this winter.
Printh writes that she is looking for Hat. Oh! Em, it seems that you are having so much trouble in your family. My sympathy for Jane and her sweet little darlings is too great to express in words. She is so good, so patient, so reasonable, that I have hopes that she will struggle nobly through her severe affliction and take comfort in her bright and affectionate little innocents, and live to see the day that they will be a help as well as a blessing. Give my love and sympathy to her and Gusta and write me a long letter and tell me all about how you are all getting along; for I am anxious to know. O! Em, I have not said half what I wanted to. I could write to you a month, right along.
My love to you dear Em and all the rest that will accept it.
As ever yours,
I guess I will have to write a few lines to someone else in this if you have no objections. Mat.
Staunton, Macoupin Co., Ills.
Sept. 30th 1874
Dearest and best of souls,
I wish you knew how near I feel to you just now, yes, and so much of the time. While you are reading this, try to imagine that I am sitting by your side, looking up in your face, and having a real confidential chat. O, if I should address you as I would like to I fear you would be chagrined and disgusted with me. But Min gives me glimpses of Frank's letters sometimes, so overflowing with his heartfelt emotions (of which she is proud and happy as a wife should be). And it is hard for me to keep by affections pent up, and write indifferently. I can hardly write a sentence without hinting, or connecting with it, something that would make known our future expectations. O, George (love) I thought it best for several reasons to tell Minnie of our intentions and I do not think I shall regret it. She did not seem much surprised-said she had thought of it long ago-thought that we were so well adapted. Said she was so glad, so thankful, that such was the case, and thereupon she began to help me plan for the future-gave me advice and instructions for which I am very thankful. Said that she thought she and Frank were much better off by being away from their relatives, and thought we would be; as we would not be likely to depend on them much; and they would on us if nothing more than our time; which would be of value to us under any circumstances. She suggested that you might come out here as soon as convenient, settle down, and learn the cooper trade while your wife was learning her trade. As there is a shop here near the depot where they turn out large quantities of barrels every day to supply the flouring mills here with barrels for shipping. And you could follow that in any place we would be sent to. She says her father works in a shop, gets 20 cents a barrel, and averages 18 dollars a week. And there was a woman here one evening that boards some of the cooper hands and said they made that much; she said she wanted her husband to learn it (he is a carpenter). She said thy received 20 cents per barrel and could make from fifteen to twenty-five barrels a day after they got used to it. The owner don't charge them anything for learning; but pays them every Saturday night for the amount of work they get done. What do you think of it? Don't think I am urging it, for I know nothing about it, only what I have been told. We will talk such matters over from time to time, but need not decide rashly. Min paid seven dollars per month for the house rent before she built, but we would not want as much room as she had there. She spoke of all this, before I hinted anything about your coming here. If we could do well here, I believe it would pay for me to wait and take this office next spring, when Frank and Min start off photographing. I would like to be there to go the fair with you, or I would like to have you here to go to the St. Louis fair with me. But I don't expect to go, as I do not wish to incur any unnecessary expense. O, I almost forgot to tell you that I received your dear, good letter, last evening; and I have read it over and over so many times, if I only thought my letters did you half as much good I should want to write to you every day. But then you live so far from town that you would not get them more than once a week anyhow. You must not repine at negligence toward me when there; for I think you were very kind-if you never become less so, I shall be content. There was a middle aged man and his wife in the depot yesterday-she was very feeble and seemed to be suffering, they were there a long time. Min says to me "why in the world don't he take her to the hotel or someplace where she can rest? What man would treat his bride in that way? Mat if I ever thought that Frank would treat me in that way, I would leave him now." She and I have been reading a book to each other called A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton; which shows us so plainly the many, many, and unceasing hardships and responsibilities that a majority of wives endure; and it makes the contemplation discouraging. Gail is a spicy, rich, rare and racy writer and tells a great many sober facts. And I have also began reading one of O.S. Fowler's works on matrimony; which is full of so much good advice both to single and married and dwells on the necessity of great happiness of a well conducted married life; and in describing the many qualities (phrenologically) of a good husband he so nearly describes my intended that I worship him (my husband that is to be) all the more (if possible).
Well, we had callers last evening and I could not finish this, so I got up at four o'clock this morning that I might get it ready for the morning train. I am very sorry you are so hurried and worried with cares and sickness-never getting any calm rest or recreation (which you need) nor time to write me long letter, I must say good bye.
Most devotedly your own little telegraph operator
[Along the margins]
Oh, it seems to me I could write to you all the time forevermore.
How I wish you and I could read that book together on matrimony.
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